The snow is coming. The local morning news meteorologists were hedging their bets on just how much, but it’s pretty clear something is coming. In the South, we lose our minds. We close schools, we raid the grocery stores for bread and milk (even if we never, ever consume them), and we consciously forget how to operate a motor vehicle. If snow comes, some churches will cancel services or, if they don’t, attendance is likely to be low. We won’t cancel. If I can physically get to the church, the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated. Even if no one shows up, like today.
It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when no one comes to mass. As long as I have server, mass is said. If I don’t have a server, I just say the office. While I always want a congregation, and the more the merrier, I do appreciate the empty chairs from time to time for the simple reason that nothing changes. Nothing. Mass is said for the benefit of the people, but it is done for God: “Pray my brother and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” The prayers in the sacristy are the same, the approach to the altar is the same, communion is the same, everything is the same. Today might have been the Lord’s reminder that even if attendance is low because of the weather, the mass is critical whether or not there is a critical mass of people; there will always be the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
This morning the staff and I hosted our office volunteers to a tea party. For the past three years we’ve used a lovely downtown tea and coffee shop for this event. Our office volunteers help us by answering the phone, working on publications, and any number of important tasks that come up in a church office. It’s nice to spend some time with them when neither of us is running around like our head is cut off. I am very fortunate (and I know it) to have the best colleagues in Christendom. I try to be the best leader I can be, but I am quite aware how I must drive them mad sometimes. We posed for our annual tongue-in-cheek photo. We are missing one member, our sexton, but we’ll get him in the picture someday. We take our faith seriously but not ourselves.
When we arrived back at the church, I discovered that St Nicholas had visited, and on his feast day no less! Sitting by the door were two large boxes with six new candlesticks that I found on sale. Our current altar candlesticks are wobbly and, frankly, cheap. These new ones aren’t expensive either, but they are a step up. There is a venerable Anglo-Catholic tradition of using cheap materials to make candlesticks, altar crosses, etc., not because we like cheap things, but because we desire beauty and use whatever we have as an offering to God. These candlesticks are slightly shorter than our current ones and I had to order taller candles (23 ½”).
I spent the rest of the afternoon tying up administrative loose ends: talked to a priest brother on the phone, talked to another friend with a prayer request, booked a flight for a visiting preacher, talked to a colleague about our shelter plans in the event of heavy snow and how to cover the needs on Sunday morning, wrote the weekly newsletter article on why we are no longer using a processional cross for the Gospel procession, etc. I also picked the winner of the Holy Doodle. Some years ago I started placing a blank box on the back of the worship bulletin for children (or adults) to doodle during the liturgy. Children, especially, listen better when they can focus their energy on something productive. I absolutely love to see what they come up with. They draw pictures based on my homily or the liturgical season or the lessons. They always find a way to connect.
Evening Prayer came and the Shrine Prayers went. It’s getting dark so early now that Evening Prayer feels like Compline. When I returned to the office, I worked hard to empty my inbox. I try to have it zeroed out by the evening, but this has been difficult the past month. I’m always afraid I serve my email rather than my email serving me. I try to reign it in and not to obsess over it. Today, I was delighted to discover the snooze button on my Gmail account. Now I can snooze important emails to reappear closer to the time I actually need to respond. The day ended with a text exchange with a police sergeant. She was asking if her officers could use our Law Enforcement Chapel for food and rest during the snow. That’s why it’s there and that’s why we are here.